There are many things I want to teach my children before they’re grown. I want them to be honest, kind, hopeful and responsible. I want them to work hard and also find enjoyment in life. I want them to learn to not only see the trash that didn’t hit the garbage can, but bend over and pick it up, for heaven’s sake! I want them to not only clean their rooms, but want to have a clean room. I want them to laugh…a lot. I want them to try new things and to have confidence in themselves. I want them to know that failure and rejection is part of the process and doesn’t define them. And I want them to eat more fruits and vegetables.
But of all the things I hope for them, the top two are these: I want them to love Jesus with their whole heart and I want them to show empathy toward others. I want them to know that empathy should be treated as a verb. It’s something you DO, not just something you have. Because empathy is just love by another name, isn’t it? And above all else I want my kids to love.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
~ 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)
Remember Lolo’s Homecoming football game experience last weekend? I’ve been paying close attention to her this week to make sure she’s ok. She was “sick” Monday. I’m not sure she really was, but I decided one day at home would be fine. We watched the movie “Gifted” and talked a little more about what happened at the game. She seemed to be handling it all well and by Tuesday was ready to head back to school and face middle school life again.
Last night after piano lessons and confirmation class I finally had a chance to check in with her again. I asked her how school was going and if she’d had any more trouble. And do you know what she told me?
She told me about a group of kids who were picking on a girl at school because of her complexion. I asked her how that made her feel. She said she knew how that felt…to be in that girl’s shoes. I asked her what happened after she saw that.
“I went over to that girl, Mom. I told her not to listen to them. I told her I didn’t have perfect skin either and that no one does. I told her they were just insecure and that if she’s getting a head start on acne then she’ll have clear skin before the rest of us.”
Empathy as a verb! Being teased and hurting from the verbal assaults of peers could have made her withdraw. It could have made her keep her head down and do everything to blend in to the surroundings. Or she could have tried hard to conform in order to be accepted. But instead, my girl showed empathy to someone hurting.
My heart swelled and tears flowed. I’m so proud of my daughter. I’m so thankful for her beautiful, brave and loving heart! I don’t care if she’s never voted on to a Homecoming court. I don’t care if she’s never accepted by the “cool kids.” And I don’t give a rip if she’s ever the most talented, the smartest or the best-dressed.
If she continues to notice those around her who are hurting and offers them kindness and encouragement, especially when it isn’t “cool” to do so, then I am grateful and happy beyond words. Because this is all that really matters. Love Jesus, love people….especially the hurting ones.
“People may hate us because of Jesus, but they should never hate Jesus because of us. The way we treat others should lead them to only one conclusion: “If this is how Jesus loves, then I’m in.” ~ Jen Hatmaker, Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life
So when you feel bullied, rejected, or made to feel less than, remember that empathy and love matter. Use that experience to offer comfort and kindness to those who are hurting. Remember, no matter what you’re going through, you are not alone, even when it 100% feels like you are. Help someone else realize that. If Lolo can do it, we can too.
© Jodi Whitsitt 2017
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